So far this week, we've discussed having the attitude of pilgrims (travelers here on earth), and also that there is a battle to keep fighting against sin.
Today we are going to look back at our verses and see that we have a responsibility to maintain "good behavior." Let's refresh our memories:
In several translations, words are used like this: "Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles." Once again, we need to make sure that we are understanding what Peter meant when he chose that word....."behavior" in this instance (and in others in I and II Peter!) means our conduct, or way of life. People today might call it our "lifestyle." I guess what we want to focus on is the overall flavor of our lives. The words "excellent" or "good" means good in the sense of beautiful, or even appealing to others who view our lives. We need to make sure that our lives are examples of the actions and deeds that conform to the Word and will of God..... and also that they are examples of what a godless culture can see as attractive. If the world looks at our lives, they should have to admit (even if it is grudgingly!) that we are good folks.
The word that Peter uses in verse 12 can be translated "see" and "observe" in other places. It carries the meaning of long-term, thoughtful observation. We must remember that even when we are not aware of it, unbelievers are watching our lives. They see how we react to things at work. They notice how we interact with others, and then how we talk about them later. They look at how we deal with problems. They observe how we treat our families.
Peter called them "pagans" but today, aren't we surrounded by unbelievers? When we react to bad driving habits in others, who sees us rant and rave? When we are rude in the grocery store or department store, who watches? When we speak of church members disparagingly, who is listening? Who observes our interactions with family and takes away an opinion of our faith?
I'm reminded of the story of Grace Aylward, and other missionaries, too, who said that natives would stand at their open windows and doors and watch their day-to-day activities. They watch everything. The "natives" who watch our daily lives may not be as obvious, but they are watching us as aliens and strangers. Pilgrims here for a short while.
Now, Peter isn't telling us that our good deeds and exemplary behavior will result in immediate conversions of unbelievers! In fact, they may slander us, because they are jealous, or insecure. Our behavior may make them feel guilty, so they may talk badly about us, or try to get us to "loosen up" and be like them. Think about the early church -- they were accused of murder, incest and cannibalism. Seriously! After all, they met secretly (to avoid persecution) and said they ate someone's flesh and drank blood.....they called each other brother and sister and were affectionate toward each other....
Our friend Paul wrote about how we should behave, too:
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Hebrews 13:5)
Peter notes, as Paul did, that a lifestyle of attractive deeds, even in the face of slander, hatred, and persecution from the lost, will result in glory to God.
I enjoy reading a good bit, and try to pay attention to those who maintain a Christian world-view in the face of opposition. Cal Thomas is one of the committed Christians that I enjoy, and I would encourage you to click on this link for one of his contributions to an e-magazine called "Tabletalk."
In 1991, Cal Thomas wrote:
I got a letter from an editor of a newspaper that recently started carrying my column. He said, “I’m so frustrated because I’m the only believer on the entire editorial staff.” I wrote back and said, “Let’s say that you weren’t on the newspaper staff but that you were a CIA plant in the politburo of the Soviet Union. Would you be complaining that you were the only one there? You would be rejoicing that your government had placed you in such a strategic position.” That is the attitude we ought to have. God has placed us in strategic positions no matter what our job is, whether we are employed or not. If we can catch that vision, if we can see ourselves as the spiritual equivalent of CIA plants and the world as the politburo, then I think we can get on fire for God and really do something significant.So, as pilgrims here on earth, we should try to maintain a lifestyle of good works and good words, even when we are treated badly by the lost.